COVID-19 drive-thru testing: How it works and what you need to know

FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) On the corner of Ninth Street and Noble Street, Foundation Health Partners has a drive-thru testing center for people with symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

A nurse with Foundation Health Partners simulates what it would be like for her to do a COVID-19 test with a patient at the drive-thru testing center. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)

Dr. Mishelle Nace, a physician with Foundation Health Partners says the purpose of the center is to test people with symptoms without sending them to a building, "which helps decrease their exposure to others, as well as decrease the rooms which need to be cleaned and overtaken, which uses up our PPE, our personal protective equipment."

Volunteers with the community emergency response team or CERT are helping with traffic control and security of the drive thru testing center.

"To control access, [we] make sure everybody who is coming into the testing site has been given a referral, and that the doctors inside have their information. Then we're directing [drivers] where to go, and making sure that pedestrians and others who don't need to be in that area go around the outside," said Lorna Illingwoth, executive director of Fairbanks Citizen Corps.

In order to be tested at the drive thru center, a patient needs a referral and an order from a doctor.

"How you get that [referral] is through calling the hotline, which is 458-2888. At that time they would talk with a nurse, discuss their symptoms, [and] concerns. Then a physician would call them right back, discuss with them what's going on and then make that referral order if it was appropriate for the situation. Then they would be sent right through the drive-thru," said Nace.

Nace says when they first started testing they were focused on only those at highest risk in vulnerable populations. Now, with more testing capability they are able to widen the focus to more people.

When someone arrives at the testing center:

-They stop at the stop sign and CERT verifies that they have the doctor's referral

-They drive to have their identity checked.

-They go to the last part of the drive-thru where a nurse will come up to their car -- and through the window, the nurse will do the test by putting a swab into their nose, holding it there for 10-15 seconds.

-The sample is then taken to the lab and the patient can drive away.

Currently the drive-thru testing center is open from 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.

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